Jon Lester has been in the news as a potential trade deadline piece for a few days now, but John Lackey's name had yet to be mentioned. That's over now thanks to the reporting of FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal, who tweeted that both Lester and Lackey could be moved by the Red Sox before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, so long as the Sox get the "right returns."
Lester is a free agent after 2014, and it became clear over the past week that he could be moved once the Sox got word of the kind of contract he would be looking for. The fact Lester has said he would still consider returning to Boston after the season even if he's traded has likely helped push this idea along, as the Sox wouldn't necessarily be giving up their claim to negotiations by moving him prior to season's end.
Lackey, on the other hand, is not a free agent officially until after 2015, as his 2011 Tommy John surgery (which cost him all of 2012) triggered a $500,000 option for next year. That means there's a chance he could be more than a rental for whoever deals for him, so while the Red Sox won't get a Lester-like return for him, they would get far more than if they only had two months of Lackey to dangle.
Trading Lester for Kemp doesn't make sense
Trading Matt Kemp makes sense. Trading Jon Lester makes sense. But for each other?
Then again, maybe two months is all there is: Lackey has hinted at retiring rather than pitching for $500,000 next year. While that's likely just a ploy to get negotiations started on an extension, it would likely be a real concern for some teams entering trade negotiations, and could keep the Sox from seeing the "right return" mentioned by Rosenthal.
Lester is putting up Cy Young-caliber numbers, but Lackey is no slouch. Since returning from Tommy John, Lackey has thrown 326 innings over 50 starts while striking out nearly four times as many batters as he's walked. The long ball has been something of an issue (as it's always been for Lackey), but he barely lets anyone on base, so those shots haven't been too damaging. Lackey is an above-average starter who can save the bullpen some work each time out, and while that's not necessarily game-changing like Lester, it's still highly valuable. It might even make more sense for someone like the Dodgers who are concerned about Josh Beckett's hip forcing them to lean on Dan Haren in October, or someone like the Pirates who just desperately need another reliable arm in their rotation if they're going to see this thing through.
The Red Sox might not end up trading either of these pitchers, but with their slew of pitching prospects and a budget that will allow them to play on the free agent and trade markets this winter, it makes sense to at least ask around and see what they could pull in.